Bill Malone's Scarne's cutting the aces

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Pete McCabe » 10/04/01 11:25 PM

A few days ago I saw a "Hidden Secrets of Magic" special from I don't know when, which BTW was outstanding.

On it Bill Malone took a brand new deck which had been brought to the show, opened, and shuffled by an audience member. He did a single shuffle and cut an Ace. He then cut each of the remaining aces in exceedingly direct fashion.

If I had been in the room watching this I might well have thought it was the greatest card trick I've ever seen. Since it was on TV you can never be sure, but it sure looked incredible.

Is there a story behind this? Is the routine in print? (I doubt it!) I believe this special is a few years old -- has this all been hashed out before?
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Postby Guest » 10/09/01 09:59 AM

Legend has it that the secret of Scarne's Aces died with him. You didn't see what you thought you saw. All I will say is he had a helping hand. Looked great none the less.

Postby Guest » 10/11/01 10:15 AM

I am by no means the most informed man in this forum, but I do recall Mr. Malone performing an astounding cutting-to-the-aces routine as a bonus effect on the video he put out on "Sam, the Bellhop." You may want to begin your investigation here. ;)

Postby Monte » 10/13/01 03:13 PM

That Ace rountine is nowhere near as good as scarne's ace cut rountine. It is good nonetheless.

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Postby steve » 10/13/01 05:39 PM

One thing I noticed (and I'm not a card guy) is how the guy who shuffled the deck, shuffled it like a pro. His riffle shuffle was excellent, from what I remember (it's been about 6 months since I saw it). I kept thinking to myself "WOW....that spec sure can shuffle". I don't know if that has anything to do with slowhand's comment, or if it even has anything to do with the trick, but it was an observation I made.
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Postby Luis » 10/13/01 08:19 PM

John Scarne claimed that when he was 19, he was able to fool some of the best card sharps of his time using their deck to cut to the aces hundreds of times for one straight week.
Is that true?
Has anybody seen Scarne performing this?

[ October 13, 2001: Message edited by: Luis ]
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Postby Steve Ehlers » 10/22/01 06:49 PM

Karl Fulves published a pamphlet in which he explains how Scarne cut to the aces. I believe this is one of the ways Scarne may have cut to the aces; however, if you read Scarne's bio, THE ODDS AGAINST ME, Fulves explaination does meet the conditions Scarne sets.

Dai Vernon in one of his columns in Genii relates the story of how he first heard of and then met John Scarne. Sam Howowitz told Vernon about Scarne. He told Vernon you have to see this guy "Flukey Johnny". Vernon asked why they called him Flukey Johnny. Horowitz said it was because he did things with cards that nobody understood. Vernon said evidently Scarne was using some sort of crimp. Horowitz said he wasn't because Scarne pointed out that he wasn't using any crimps.

Vernon said after he say Scarne he recognized that Scarne was in fact using a crimp but it was one that wasn't known to magicians at that time.

I asked Karl Fulves about Vernon's comments regarding the crimp. He said Scarne used the method he published pointing out heused no crimps. After he cut them from the deck he would put in the work

In regards to Malone performing Scarne's aces; the trick was good but it wasn't the method Scarne used.
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Postby Luis » 10/22/01 08:16 PM

You can read Scarne's own story at
the chapter on cutting the aces is called "Fooling the Card Sharks"
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Postby Pete McCabe » 10/22/01 10:38 PM

Thanks Steve Ehlers for some fascinating info. Can you tell me the name of the Fulves manuscript which details Scarne's purported method?
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Postby Steve Ehlers » 10/23/01 05:38 PM


The pamphlet is Karl Fulves Riffle Shuffle Methods, published in 1987. Fulves starts out with a paragraph from Scarne on Cards talking about cutting high card with Arnold Rothstein.

In the next paragraph he writes: John Scarne partially explained the method he used to accomplish the above demonstration; see Scarne on Cards and The Odds Against Me for the relevant information. But he kept one method in reserve, never explaining it in print. Scarne revealed this method in a session that took place on June 3, 1974. This superb shuffle control is described here for the first time.

Fulves then describes the shuffle.

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Postby Pete McCabe » 10/23/01 10:47 PM


Thanks for the tip. I'm on the lookout.

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Postby Guest » 04/03/07 12:24 PM

Love Bill's "Scarne's Aces" also. On his new DVD set Bill Malone has a trick called "Radical Aces"on the volume 4 dvd. I believe this is what everyone is looking for. (At least according to the description on the DVD.)

Postby Guest » 04/03/07 01:24 PM

Radical Aces is a very quick visual production of the aces from a shuffled deck, but it's not the effect he did on the Hidden Secrets program.

Postby Guest » 04/03/07 01:30 PM

The Hidden Secrets of Magic special is on a DVD called Lance Burton Secrets of Magic, which, by the way, does not expose any secrets. Amazon sells it for about $6.

It contains two Burton TV specials mainly of his stage act, which are very enjoyable in their own right, and the Hidden Secrets show, which includes Burton, Malone, Steve Forte, and other very interesting acts such as the version of sawing a woman in half that was in Steinmeyer's Alan Wakeling book.

It looked to me that Malone was creating steps in the deck as he shuffled and cut.

Postby Guest » 04/03/07 03:01 PM

The TV special with Malone, Forte and others on the Burton DVD was named something like Secrets Unveiled, not Hidden Secrets.

Postby Guest » 04/03/07 04:08 PM

You can see Malone performing the effect in question here .

Postby Guest » 04/04/07 02:03 AM

that is a sweet routine!

Postby Guest » 04/04/07 11:25 AM

I watched the effect, but even more amazing to me was the link to the side of the video player.

It was Steve Forte doing seconds and bottoms on the same television program!

so... good...

Postby Guest » 04/05/07 02:44 PM

The Malone performance is very entertaining and mystifying but it has very little to do with Scarne's Ace Cutting in my opinion. The story of cutting the aces in front of Rothstein and his men is fraught with controversy and I would argue that the circumstantial evidence does not weigh in Scarne's favour. He clearly did learn a method similar to the Stevens Cull for cutting to the aces in performance at sometime in his life but doing this in front of gangsters at the tender age of 18 years old.....Hmmmmm.


Paul H

Postby Geno Munari » 04/05/07 03:40 PM

Bill is a great performer and I enjoyed the Ace cutting effect, but I don't think this is Scarne's aces. Grippo did the Scarne version, but the version performed on the TV show was beyond that and I think very bold. Loved it.
Btw. Who was the guy that shuffled the deck, and I am not intimating that the shuffle was bad, I'm just curious whom he is?
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Postby Guest » 04/05/07 04:00 PM

Is there any record of any magician meeting Old Dad Stevens besides Dai Vernon? As of yet Dai Vernon is the only magician that I know of that met Old Dad Stevens.

Thanks in advance.

Postby Guest » 04/05/07 05:46 PM

The Malone trick is great. My best guess would be that it is an effect from (Bill's friend) Steve Draun. It is published in 'Secrets Draun From Underground'. I lost my copy a few years ago - so I am going on memory. But there is a trick in there where the four aces are pre-crimped and then controlled to the top from a deck which the spectator has freely shuffled. I would be surprised if that isn't what Bill is doing here...

One more thing... Because the aces are crimped it is surprising easy to shuffle them to the top - no need to spend 20 years learning Stevens' controls and blocking off.


PS Here's a clip of Ascanio I just found Ascanio - YouTube

Postby Guest » 04/06/07 05:19 AM


The Draun trick you refer is the WEB Shuffle and it involve culling and stacking the (pre crimped) aces using riffle shuffles, not cutting on them.

Horewer, I also suspect that Malone uses pre crimped aces because he is able to allow the spectator to cut the pack before cutting himself on an ace. Somthing that is not possible with the Steven's cull.



Postby Guest » 04/06/07 06:08 AM

The "story" that Scarne told in the book "The Odds Against Me" is a great story. Scarne said in his book that he "always gave the deck one or more riffle shuffles and hold the cards in such a manner that he could glimpse the indices as they fly past during the shuffle. This I do with as many aces as possible. Then he says, he calculates the number of cards a player cuts to (his helper in the trick) to the nearest the bottom ace."

This gives the idea that the helper cut off a half and kept it and Scarne cut off the remaining cards on the table and cut to an ace.

To me that is one of the more interesting points in the trick. The challenge of the helper and letting them cut the cards first. In the performance in front of an audience (a few pages earlier) he writes something like he let the spectator cut the deck. (They cut to a king). Then he cut to an ace, another two aces and then he threw the deck high in the sky and while the cards were falling in all directions he reached into the air and caught the last ace.

Also the way it is written in the Scarne book "the odds against me" leads me to believe that the only thing that would make it similar to the Stevens cull or any other kind of cull is the spotting of the aces while Scarne did the one or more shuffles at the start of the trick.

I liked the idea and how I went about the "Challenge" I wrote up an effect using Marlo's ten card nail gage in one of my blog books.

I have more thoughts on this but I will save that for another time.

Best ahead!

Postby Guest » 04/06/07 07:22 AM

I seem to remember reading in Vernon's column where he said that in his ace cutting, Scarne used a crimp, of a different type than normally used at that time. And it's certainly possible Scarne used different methods (or a combination of methods) depending on the circumstances.

I also remember seeing Scarne apparently doing a riffle cull on TV once back in the 1970's...though I don't remember if that was to cut to the aces or deal them in a poker hand or something.

Postby Guest » 04/06/07 07:34 AM

One of the more interesting things about cards and the talk about this effect "Scarne's Aces."

First of all in the show that Scarne writes about in his book "the odds against me." The deck was shuffled by the spectator. If Scarne shuffled the deck after the spectator it is not mentioned here in the text. The spectator cut off about half the deck (it is also not written in the text how many cards - half the deck or less was cut off by the helper or less?) and cut to a king.

Then Scarne cut to the ace of clubs, two more aces from the "deck" then he threw the deck into the air and caught the last one as the cards sprinkled onto the floor.

As the text reads - the deck it is not written if Scarne took the spectators pile back and used the whole deck for the rest of the trick. Or the aces just happened to be all four of them, in his half of the deck.

A great story!

Postby Stan Willis » 04/06/07 11:07 AM

First of all let me say that I have the utmost respect for Bill Malone as a Cardician and not to forget to mention that he is one hell of a performer/salesman (take nothing away from him as a matter of fact perhaps you might want to add some).
That being said I think that the innocent(?) guy who threw his cards on the table along with everyone else.......the guy who caught the ball out wrestling two petite women on either side of him.......the guy who shuffled the cards like he'd been practicing for the last 12-15 years of his young adult life was in fact a stooge with a special gimmicked deck of cards.
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Postby Guest » 04/06/07 11:21 AM

I did wonder about the spectator shuffling the cards face up.

Also, I may be misremembering the sequence, but did Malone riffle the deck more than once? If he only riffled once, I don't see how he'd sight the last three aces. If he did riffle and sight only once, does that mean the four aces were together when the spectator was done shuffling?

It looks very clear to me that he's cutting at a step each time.

Postby Guest » 04/07/07 07:56 PM

From what I've read about Scarne, he was a great self-promoter. I think some of what he has written about his feats should be taken with several grains of salt. Not to say he wasn't a great card man though. Just maybe tended to embellish some to make a better story.

Postby Matt Stevens » 04/07/07 10:39 PM

This is unrelated but, I think, kinda funny. Did anyone notice that this thread was started in 2001.

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Postby Guest » 04/07/07 10:53 PM

I didn't notice that, how wierd.

Postby Guest » 04/08/07 12:04 AM

I think that the Scarne ace cutting account retains timeless fascination for some of us, myself included. Scarne was both a highly skilled cardcian and a shameless self promoter. One of the most useful dividends from his 'account' of the ace cutting tour de force is the patter it provides for modern ace cutting effects.


Paul H

Postby Guest » 04/08/07 05:32 AM

Just a thought for all to consider..

What if All the decks where prepared before hand and it made No difference which one was chosen?

Remember they All where scattered on the table before Bill had one chosen.

Using this technique, most any of us could duplicate the routine just as Bill did.

As Jon always says "onward".

Tom Wolf

Postby Guest » 04/08/07 07:00 AM

Here are a few more thoughts on "Scarne's Aces". In the book "The Odds Against me." Scarne writes about doing it in a formal show and then later on he writes about doing it for some "shady people."

The chapter is called "Meeting the Racket Bosses."

Here is invited to a show and they just want to see that one trick - the cutting to the aces. Here they give him a deck. They shuffle it - then Scarne takes the deck and writes, "I gave the deck several "riffle shuffles" then placed the cards on the table.

A person (helper) cut to the ten of hearts and Scarne cut to the ace of spades.

Scarne again writes, "I again "riffle shuffled" the deck several times and placed the deck on the table."

A person cut to a Jack of clubs and Scarne cut to the ace of hearts.

Like I said this makes for an interesting story but I would also like to bring up one or two thoughts that I have on this subject. Scarne was a promoter of himself and was in the media a lot. He did films of his work demonstrating card sharp techniques and was on TV.

So far I have never seen a record of him doing this effect - the "Scarne aces" that allegedly only he could do - on film. One would think that he would want to show on film "Scarne" fooling the best brains in magic and the card sharp world with this effect that allegedly only he could do.

The other observation I would like to make is that as written in "The odds against me" the method Scarne used is not a cull and has nothing to do with the Stevens cull or any other cull.

With the exception of spotting the aces as he "riffle shuffled" the cards and then placed the cards on the table.

All in all it makes for interesting reading and patter for magicians that do cut the ace routines.

Just a few thoughts.

Postby Guest » 04/08/07 11:16 PM

Hi Glenn,

Good to talk to you again. I have Fulves 1996 'Blocking Off' manuscript. He tells the story of a session with Scarne in 1976 I think in which Scarne tips his version of the Stevens. He states that this was the method used to fool Rothstein et al. Fulves does say that in Scarne's hands this move was very deceptive. Praise indeed from a magician who employs high standards to this type of riffle cull. Also, people on this forum have reported seeing Scarne do an ace cutting routine on TV that seems to meet some of the conditions described by Scarne in his ace cutting for Cardsharks.

In spite of this, I still harbour serious doubts. There are at least three accounts of this Rothstein encounter from Scarnes shamelessly self promotional autobiography, 'The Amazing World of John Scarne' his 'Scarne on Cards' and 'The Odds Against Me'. The description of the handling differs in significant ways in each of these accounts and there is no corroborative evidence that Scarne actually met Rothstein. Harry Lorraine was asked on the Cafe whether he has seen Scarne's ace cutting feat and Harry replied in wonderfully and typically direct way,

"Of course I did, John. I was not as impressed as laymen or many magicians were. There are much, much, better versions of cutting the aces now."

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the method.


Paul H

Postby John McDonald » 04/09/07 12:55 AM

Here is a video of Scarne himself that Bill Mullins linked to here about 13 minutes in you see a cut to the Aces routine
Best John
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Postby Guest » 04/09/07 07:31 AM

Thanks to Bill Mullins And John McDonald for the link to the video of John Scarne.

Hey Paul How are you doing? Please understand I am not knocking John Scarne. I grew up around larger than life people in and out of magic and show business. I think it was Al Jolson that said something like, Why let the truth get in the way of a good story.

That quote in my opinion describes show business in a nut shell.

Paul you wrote - I have Fulves 1996 'Blocking Off' manuscript. He tells the story of a session with Scarne in 1976 I think in which Scarne tips his version of the Stevens. He states that this was the method used to fool Rothstein et al. Fulves does say that in Scarne's hands this move was very deceptive.

(Glenn Bishop)
Thanks for this information and it is interesting information but the way I look at things perhaps because I grew up around people that could tell a good story. To me it is just hearsay information. As far as I can tell a lot of what Scarne wrote and was published about himself - a lot of it conflicts.

In my opinion in just the single book the odds against me - he writes about the ace cutting two different ways. Once when performing in a formal show and another time in front of the Racket Bosses. Again I mention his riffle shuffling spot aces and then placing the deck on the table for cutting. I am not up on what Fulves wrote about this cull that he wrote was allegedly John Scarnes but to me it is hearsay.

I have talked about John Scarne with both my Dad and Jay Marshall who both told me that they knew him. They both told me their own opinion about Scarne as a performer and Scarne as a promoter and Scarne and his ace cutting. And I have talked this over with others of the older generation . It is interesting what others have said but the way I look at it all of it is hearsay.

But to me I sum this up in what Al Jolson may have said, Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?"

Best ahead and Happy Easter!

Glenn Bishop

Postby Guest » 10/03/07 01:34 PM

check you tube for this topic. scarne did the ace cutting on a episode of tom synders show in the 70s. the video was on youtube for about 4 days, then the user (conmagic) took it down for some reason. there is a reply to the video with a very talented english card man who does the exact performance on the video (i saw it before it was deleted). it is credited to sal placentes dvd , lecture notes vol 1- cutting the aces.

Postby Guest » 10/22/07 12:15 PM

What one man can do another can do.

I saw this and i've asked around but with no luck. I'll create my own way to pull this off, because i too saw this and my jaw dropped.

Its rare to have my jaw drop, but it did. Great effect. What I like about it is that its a layman's effect and a magician fooler as well.

I ask myself, if i could choose ONE card trick, what would it be? This would definitely be a contestant. But i think currently, my favorite one to perform is "The Trick that Can't be Explained". I performed it at a magic show on friday night. Definitly considered one of my "special weapons" ;)

Chris Brown

Postby Guest » 10/31/07 03:49 AM

Some other things that may be of interest to anyone who likes this routine...

Darwin Ortiz- Blind Aces. Not sure which book, possibly at the table or cardshark.
Steve Bedwell- Can't remember the name of the trick but he pretty much does something VERY close to this. It has it's roots in Marlo's work, (but then again what doesn't.) It's on his old A-1 tape called Steve Bedwell, Taped.

Not available commercially, but if you can get a copy of Ricky Jay and his 51 assistants, he does a nice cutting the aces routine.

None of these use a brand new deck like Malone's, but there are similar elements in all of them. Watch and you may pick up part of it.


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